The skyrocketing popularity of more media-capable smartphones has sparked a resurgence of interest in mobile music opportunities. As one of the leading smartphone manufacturers in the world, Research In Motion is aggressively targeting the mobile entertainment market with a number of new, consumer-friendly BlackBerry devices. It also recently launched the BlackBerry App World, where users can download new services and applications. Already, music services like Slacker and Pandora have had great success in reaching mobile users in this way.

In this exclusive interview, RIM senior VP of BlackBerry platforms Alan Brenner spoke with Billboard in advance of his keynote appearance at the Mobile Entertainment Live conference, taking place Oct. 6 in San Diego, to discuss the new opportunities available to the mobile and music industries.

How has the content distribution model changed in the last year for mobile entertainment?

There are a few things. One is the introduction of App World for BlackBerry. There are a range of music-focused partners who are getting access to the largest smartphone audience in North America in ways that are much easier for them than they would have had to deal with in the past. Companies like Slacker and Pandora and a whole slew of them. They’ve had the bar lowered dramatically to acquire that audience, and they’re taking advantage of it. We’re not the only one doing it, but we’re certainly an important one.

In terms of the device, the media capabilities have been enhanced dramatically. With software like Media Sync we’ve made it trivial for people to acquire and play their music collections on BlackBerry whether they’re using Windows Media or iTunes. We’re going to continue to drive that agenda to make it dirt simple for people to use the product with their music collections and acquire new music.

If an artist or a label wanted to create an app for the BlackBerry platform, what would they have to do? Explain the process for us.

There are web entry points like the Developer Zone off BlackBerry.com where they can download the developer tools, and look up written and video content to get educated on how to build for BlackBerry. In some cases they may want to sign up to our [developer] program to get more direct personal technical support. And then you can submit it to App World through the online submission process.

The former CEO of Slacker says their app is downloaded almost twice as much on BlackBerry devices than on the iPhone, and said it was because the app was able to have more features as a result of having better access to the BlackBerry system. What kind of access do you allow and how is that different from other developer programs?

That’s one of the things we’re particularly strong at. We really do expose a suite of rich APIs that give developers the ability to turn all the knobs and dials of the device, and dovetails neatly with the other applications on the device. What distinguishes the BlackBerry in the market is that we’re very feature-dense. We make it possible for the user to get a lot done with very little work in interacting with the device. We go for seamless integration across our applications. We want to make it easy to get tasks done that may involve several applications. It's usage-oriented rather than application-oriented.

How many apps are available in the App World now?

It’s in the neighborhood of over 3,000. We’re adding about half a dozen to a dozen a day.

What kind of outreach is RIM doing to attract both developers and content providers to create new products for the App World platform?

There is a fairly active outreach. I wouldn’t say it’s programmatic, but every executive involved in our developer programs [is] proactively going out talking to startup companies and a whole range of companies. I personally have probably met with on the order of 100 companies in the last 6-9 months, giving them the tour of what we have available and how to play in App World and how to use our APIs. There’s keen interest. Of course the biggest opportunity to do this is at our annual developer conference which we kicked off last October. We had 700-800 developers there, and we have another one coming up in November at which we expect to have a much larger crowd.

What are you doing to reach out to the entertainment and music industry specifically?

There’s a ton of executive meetings going on between us and music industry companies. One of the more high-profile connections you’ve probably seen is the engagement with Will.i.am, and U2 is another band we’ve been active with. But we talk to all the labels on a regular basis.

Brenner will participate in a Keynote Interview at Billboard's Mobile Entertainment Live, taking place Oct. 6 in San Diego as part of the CTIA Wireless I.T. & Entertainment conference, where these and other topics will be explored. Other Keynotes include conversations with Fall Out Boy's Pete Wentz. A full agenda and registration details are available at www.billboardevents.com.

Questions? Comments? Let us know: @billboardbiz

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